Carwow, Motorline and Autorama all came under the scrutiny of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after complainants highlighted flawed claims about the savings they could achieve for motorists.
The online marketing portal and franchised retail group and leasing specialist all had adverts banned due to claims that they could realise savings for customers seeking a car which were ultimately deemed “misleading” by the ASA.
The ASA received two complaints related to a television advertisement for carwow, screened on June 28, 2018
The advert featured a listing for a Ford Mondeo with a recommended retail price (RRP) of £24,195, claiming that "buyers save an average £3,600".
Text on the bottom right-hand side of the screen read “Savings against RRP”.
One complainant argued that Ford’s website listed the same car with an RRP of £23,590.
Another challenged whether the claim "buyers save an average £3,600" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Carwow said the RRPs on its website were updated automatically as the price lists held by CAP HPI updated, but added that the discrepancy had arisen because Ford displayed the older model, but provided CAP HPI with the RRP for the newer model.
Despite this evidence, the ASA resolved to uphold the complaint, banning the advert from further exposure in its current form.
The ASA said: “Because we had not seen sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the RRPs did not differ significantly from the price at which the vehicles were generally sold, we therefore concluded that the average saving of £3,600 quoted in (the advert) had not been substantiated and was misleading.”
A spokesman for carwow said that the business was "deeply disappointed" by the ASA's decision and intended to launch an appeal.
He added: "We strongly believe that the ASA has come to the wrong conclusion and one which departs from its previous decisions."
Motorline Toyota Bromsgrove’s direct marketing campaign of October 24, entitled "The Motorline Price Fall Event 25th - 29th October 2018. Save up to £6,535 on pre-registered, nearly-new cars" also attracted complaints due to its savings claims.
Beneath the initial claim – contained within a marketing email – was an image of a Toyota C-HR Hybrid, accompanied by text stating "Nearly-new...10 miles...MRRP £28,395 Now £22,491 Save £5,904".
A complainant to the ASA said that the advertised car was not available at the stated price at the Bromsgrove branch, however and challenged whether the email was misleading.
Motorline Toyota Bromsgrove told the ASA that they had spoken to the complainant and sold them a car similar to the one they were originally interested in, but the ASA deemed that the retailer “did not provide a substantive response to the complaint”.
The ASA said that it had not seen evidence to demonstrate that the Toyota C-HR in question had been available at the price listed at the Bromsgrove branch and therefore concluded that the ad was misleading and breached the Code.
It banned Toyota Bromsgrove from using the advert again and told the retailer not to advertise vehicles unless they could substantiate that they had been available to purchase.
A compliant to the ASA related to a television advertisement for Autorama – screened in September, 2018 – questioned whether it was misleading because it did not make the nature of the financial product sufficiently clear and did not make clear that Motorama was a third-party broker.
The complainant also said that a claim that consumers should "Stop paying eye-watering deposits" was misleading, because they understood that consumers were required to pay an initial fee of at least three months' rental in advance.
Motorama said that they explicitly stated throughout the ad that they offered a “leasing” product, adding that the advert had not been “intentionally misleading” in its lack of explicit explanation of its position as a broker.
In relation to the deposit claims, Motorama said 30% of its customers leased with just one month’s initial rental, and many other organisations within the industry did not offer this as an option.
When comparing the same vehicle with the same mileage and contract term length as a PCP deal on the manufacturer’s website, Motorama’s initial rental was over 50% lower, it claimed.
While the ASA deemed that the advert made clear that consumers would be entering a leasing agreement, however, it upheld complaints related to the omission iof information related to Motorama’s position as a broker and the perceived implication that consumers may not be expected to pay a deposit.
The ASA called on Motorama to ensure they made clear that they were a third-party leasing broker and not to imply that consumers would be entering directly into a contract with Motorama in future.
It added: “We also told them not to state or imply that consumers would need to pay very little or no money up front, if that was not the case.”